News Headlines

News Headlines
Health care news from around the state and nation

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Physicians Push for Say in Value-Based Payments Structure
Health Leaders Media

Physicians appear energized over a deal announced in Congress last week to repeal Medicare’s fee-for-service payment system and replace it with a value-based model. But they say it is critically important for them to be involved in the process of crafting the new reimbursement scheme.

“The consensus is the fee-for-service system is unsustainable,” said Peter Roman, MD, specialist medical director for Lowell General Hospital PHO in Massachusetts and a private practice orthopedic surgeon. “We need to move to a system that rewards value, with value defined as quality divided by cost.”

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Vast Study Casts Doubts on Value of Mammograms
New York Times

One of the largest and most meticulous studies of mammography ever done, involving 90,000 women and lasting a quarter-century, has added powerful new doubts about the value of the screening test for women of any age.

It found that the death rates from breast cancer and from all causes were the same in women who got mammograms and those who did not. And the screening had harms: One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman’s health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.

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ECRI Cautions Hospitals About Tech Hype
Health Leaders Media

A device that allows untrained nurses to sedate colonoscopy patients without an anesthesiologist, hospital gowns woven with infection-fighting copper, and oral drugs embedded with sensors are among the emerging technologies senior executives may be pressured to bring into their hospitals and healthcare systems.

But the 2014 edition of the ECRI Institute’s annual “Top 10 Hospital C-Suite Watch List” aims to distinguish between must-have technologies and hype.

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Dignity awards grants to nonprofits throughout region
Sacramento Business Journal

Nonprofit Dignity Health has awarded more than $846,000 in grants to improve the health of communities across the Sacramento region and reduce disparities between different populations. The San Francisco-based health system operates six hospitals in the area, including Mercy General, Mercy Folsom, Mercy San Juan, Methodist Hospital, Woodland Memorial and Sierra Nevada Memorial in Grass Valley.

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Why Healthcare Should Be Worried About the Target Cyber Attacks
The Health Care Blog

If you are a CEO or COO of a health care organization, and your IT people have been trying to get your attention, it’s time to have a serious sit-down with them.

If they haven’t been trying to get your attention, it’s time to have an more serious sit-down with them, complete with charts and graphs and arrows on flip charts.

Here’s why: Remember in November it was revealed that the Target retail chain’s computer systems were compromised? Some 70 million names, home addresses and phone numbers were stolen (pretty good raw material for identity theft) and 40 million credit card numbers.

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Obama’s Arbitrary Health Care Flexibility
National Journal Magazine

The Affordable Care Act means what it says and says what it means.

Until it doesn’t.

The arbiter is President Obama and a phalanx of health care advisers and political strategists.

Together, they try to implement what even Obama’s heartiest loyalists concede is an onerous and complicated law. They do this amid myriad Democratic midterm anxieties. And frothy Republican objections.

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How Obama Keeps Hurting Obamacare
National Journal Magazine

Republicans have done everything they can think of to strike down Obamacare, but they’ve still only managed to come in second place. For all the House votes to repeal, defund, or weaken Obamacare, some of the most significant setbacks for the law have come from the administration itself.

Monday’s delay in the law’s employer mandate was just the latest in a series of self-inflicted wounds, just like the HealthCare.gov launch and delays in several programs that simply weren’t ready for prime time.

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Obamacare’s Market Share Mystery: Will the Health Law Shake Up Insurance Leader Board?
Pro Publica

Well before enrollment began in Obamacare’s new insurance exchanges, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island dominated the state’s individual insurance market, with a 95 percent market share in 2011.

Fast forward two years and little has changed. In the first four months of enrollment in Health Source RI, the Blue Cross plan has seen its market share grow, as hard as that is to believe—to nearly 97 percent.

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Insurers now outspending Kochs’ group on Obamacare ads
Washington Post

Much has been made about Americans for Prosperity’s prodigious spending on an ad campaign opposed to the new health-care law.

But another player, which is casting the program in a different light, is giving the conservative advocacy group a run for its money: the health insurance industry.

Companies such as Cigna and Kaiser Permanente poured about $40 million into television ads specifically related to Obamacare between Dec. 1 and Feb. 8, according to ad tracking firm Kantar Media. That is far more than AFP, which as of last week had dropped about $27 million on ads since August attacking politicians who supported the program.

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Bill seeks to expand Covered California board
Sacramento Business Journal

Lawmakers frustrated with poor customer service and low enrollment of Latino consumers in Covered California are taking their beef to the top.

Sen. Norma Torres, a Democrat from Pomona who complained to the Covered California board at the January meeting in Sacramento, introduced a bill Monday to expand the board and bring on members with a broader range of experience. The bill attracted early bipartisan support.

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Saline shortage prompts call for blood donations
San Diego Union-Tribune

A nationwide saline solution shortage has driven the San Diego Blood Bank to ask for urgent blood donations from the public.

Blood is in short supply because sterile saline is critical in working with some blood donors, Lynn Stedd, spokeswoman for the blood bank, said Tuesday.

While most blood donors give one pint per visit, a core of about 100 super donors give two pints at a time. The patient’s blood stream must be supplemented with sterile saline in order to make that second pint possible.

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Mammogram screenings don’t reduce cancer death rates, study finds
Los Angeles Times

Yearly mammography screenings for women ages 40 to 59 do not reduce breast cancer deaths, even though they make a diagnosis of illness more likely, according to a long-term study of nearly 90,000 Canadian women.

The research, published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal, is the latest in a series of studies that question the value of annual breast X-rays for pre-menopausal women and whether too many women are being “overdiagnosed” by the popular test.

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Hospital error may put patients at risk of incurable disease
Los Angeles Times

Eighteen neurosurgery patients in North Carolina may have been exposed to an incurable brain disorder because instruments were not properly sterilized after an operation on someone who already had the disease. Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem apologized this week, but said the risk was “very low.” In a statement, the hospital said that “extra precautions should have been taken” because there were reasons to suspect that the original patient had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

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State to End Program for Sickest Kids
East Bay Express

Scarlett Wecks was born with a brain tumor the size of a fist. After she underwent surgery to remove the tumor and endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy during the first two years of her life, the toddler, now three-and-a-half years old, has shown no signs of tumor regrowth. “She’s doing really well,” said Chris Wecks, her thirty-year-old father, of Newark. At nine months old, Scarlett, who also has cerebral palsy and is hearing impaired, could barely move on her own, he said.

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Salinas hospital partnership talks move forward
Monterey Herald

Two supervisors who represent the Salinas area will take the lead on a potential affiliation between Monterey County, Natividad Medical Center and Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.

On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors agreed unanimously to appoint Supervisors Simon Salinas and Fernando Armenta to a committee which will respond to Salinas Valley Memorial’s proposal to explore a partnership between two of the county’s largest health care organizations.

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Sonoma Valley Hospital debuts new wing
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Scales, wheelchairs, portable patient monitors and rolling metal carts and gurneys piled high with medical equipment and supplies were just some of the last-minute items to find a home at Sonoma Valley Hospital’s new emergency department Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, nurses, doctors and medical staff worked throughout the morning to put everything in its place, as the first patients were brought into the new $43.8 million hospital wing, including a new second-floor surgical center.

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